Your intimate relationship is probably where you’d expect to have the most intimacy. Still this close familiarity can be hard to reach. The difficulty of finding true intimacy has to do with revealing yourself. The less ego you have as an armour, the more intimacy you find.
Sometimes you can have a warm and confidential conversation with a stranger, just like that. You carelessly talk about feelings, fears and desires, and then you part again, slightly moved and happy. It’s often easier to be confidential with someone you don’t know, to be completely honest and true to yourself, than with the people you know. Strange, but true: intimate moments are rare in many ‘intimate’ relationships. How is that possible?
It has to do with the masks we’re used to wearing, with the social games we play, consciously, but mostly unconsciously. But to put off the masks, we have to trust that we won’t get hurt.
Why we’re afraid of intimacy
‘People are afraid of intimacy,’ Indian spiritual teacher Osho said, ‘because they fear the other person will discover the black hole inside them if they allow them to come close.’
The word intimacy comes from Latin intimum, which means the inside of you, your inner core. If you don’t know who you are, essentially, you can never really become intimate with anyone. The other person will feel that you don’t know where you’re going, that you have never heard your own song, that your life is not a cosmos but a chaos. Hence the fear of intimacy.
Who are we below our masks?
But even if you do know where you’re going, it can be difficult to let your lover see the intimate inside of you. Intimacy is closeness, in every way. But it only originates when you are yourself completely, the way we really are, below our ego, the anger, the misery or the indifferent mask.
Why intimacy in a relationship is so hard to reach
So, intimacy and ego do not go well together. And our ego is probably the most present in our intimate relationships. Even if we like eachother a lot and we’re happy together, under the surface, there’s often a struggle going on. In part, that struggle is about ego. I want my partner to acknowledge me in everything I do, I want to win. But there’s more. At the same time I don’t want to win, because a docile partner who agrees with me all the time and does as I say, is no use to me.
Perhaps, our relationships are the place to fight this battle. There’s no place where your ego bumps into another one’s ego as hard as at home, with your partner. There’s no other place where every sliver of egoism is as unwelcome as in an intimate relationship. We fight because of our desire for intimacy.
The point is…
During an intimate relationship you keep learning, because you will always long for egoless moments together. And to have these moments, you need to go deep. You have to face your dark sides, fearlessly confront the black hole deep within, your fears, your doubts – to find your shadow and unveil it.
The point is: you can only become intimate with your loved ones, if you know yourself intimately. To meet yourself intimately, you have to descend into your deepest core, all by yourself. That’s when you’ll get to know your not-so-elegant features. They have come to show.
That means that you know how unpleasant you can be, how stubborn, what a control freaky you are sometimes, how rude or unsportsmanlike, how self-interested or stuck up. From that moment on, you don’t have to project your shadow side on the other person. Moreover: your loved ones are allowed to know what you are really like. You don’t have to hide it anymore.
How to be intimate together
If your partner has taken the same brave journey to the inner darkness, the two of you can become real, intimate friends. Whatever happens, you don’t have to hide behind a protective mask anymore. Every time you accidentally snap at them, say: ‘There she was again, the angry teacher inside my soul.’ Your partner will probably nod understandingly. When it comes to love making, things will also change when the two of you are true friends who don’t have to pretend. The arousing game you guys played in the beginning of the relationship might not return, but the new intimacy is every bit as precious.
Text: Lisette Thooft (edited) - Photo: Almos Bechtold